Africa 2011, Part 9.

Continuing with the Chobe River boat ride:

Skimmers! With juveniles! Skimmers are a neat-looking bird because their lower jaw/beak is longer than their top jaw/beak. They fly along the surface of the water and scoop things up with that long lower part.

Elephants! So many elephants. Along the river we saw a male elephant eating roots. Because of the recent drought, roots are still edible. This guy had great technique – first, he would kick the grass to loosen the root, then, using his trunk, he would shake the dirt off of it. Then he would eat. Drea got a video of the whole process:

Other elephants: Elephant throwing dirt on herself.

Large troupe of elephants coming down the hill to drink, looking very imposing.

And look at the babies! We saw a ton of elephant babies. Literally, it was a ton. They’re very heavy animals. See, I made a funny there.

We saw a wee baby elephant drinking. They don’t know how to use their trunks at all until they are older than six months, so this little guy had to hunker down and bring his mouth to the water. Awwww.

I saw something I had never seen before and that I found fascinating: a clearly disabled elephant that was full-grown and functioning with a herd. You would think he would have been picked off by predators, but no, he was moving along with the rest of the group. I called him The Elephant Elephant, after The Elephant Man. Look, his spine is all jinky and his leg is wack and I don’t know what’s going on with his hips.

Bee-eaters! That little fellow who is flying by popped out of the hole directly above him at the top of the picture, the ones that’s only a tiny bit bigger than his body. It was amazing to watch him go in and out of there, getting food for his kiddies. To re-enter in he would fly-fly-fly and then fold his wings a nanosecond before he shot back in – perfect timing.

Other bee-eaters.

One of the neatest things we saw was a kingfisher pulling a hummingbird impression. In order to stay directly over the water, the kingfisher flew into the wind. Aside from the flapping, he didn’t move an inch. It was quite impressive.

And finally, spoonbills. They have spoon-shaped bills. I love it when ornithologists call it like it is.

So that was Chobe in Botswana. Amazing. It really is different to see the animals from the water.

When we got back to the hotel (at about four in the afternoon) we went for a walk and passed by a pond, where we saw something really weird. There were two or three trees full of weaver birds, hanging upside-down flapping their wings and shrieking.

Here’s some video Drea took:

One of the weaver’s nests had fallen to the ground. They’re really impressive up close. They don’t use spit or mud or poo, just woven grass. Mishi tried to pull it apart and she was astonished by how difficult it was.

The next day we found out there was a feeding in the backyard shrubbery of the hotel. Eight zebras and three giraffes live on the hotel grounds, and while they were wild animals, the hotel game warden had a special relationship with them. He was laying out large plastic containers of grain when we wandered over. And sure enough, at about 2:58, all eight zebras showed up for snakkies. And they had a baby with them (awww).

Zebra yawning. Looks like he has dentures, don’t it?

The little guy wanted some milk from his mom, but she was otherwise occupied with stuffing her face full of grain, so he sadly rested his head on her butt and waited while she slapped him in the face with her tail. It was precious. Drea got footage.

And then, like a floating dream, the creamiest-colored giraffe emerged out of the trees. I’ve never seen one that pale. I thought it was so lovely.

It was kind of an idiot, because it just stood there. It didn’t eat or anything. It just stood there. Then…it picked its nose with its tongue! And Cricket got the shot! I was ecstatic. Finally I got my giraffe-tongue pic!

The giraffe’s pregnant mom was off to the side eating leaves off of trees, and no joke, we were standing mere feet away from her when she decided to drink so we got to see her go down into her drinking posture right in front of us. It was breathtaking, like watching an Ent from LOTR bend down.

Afterwards we walked back to the hotel and saw this insane-looking flower. I don’t know anything about it except that it huge and it looks fake and it is not.

But the real icing on the cake was when we went to the main building for dinner that night and a vervet monkey was sitting on the wooden roof. I had explained to Mishi earlier that they are often called Blue-Balled Vervets because their testicles are a festive shade of cyan. Now this guy was sitting directly above our heads which allowed me the opportunity to get this super-special photo.

Vibrant, aren’t they?

Next, we cover me being a daredevil for about two seconds and spending the rest of the time watching other people be daredevils, and then that’s it for Africa.

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